Meet the Participants: The challenges of innovation

IACT Pitch Night is less than three weeks away, and our teams are seriously on the move. 

At the close of Week 5, the IACT teams are planning their customer journeys (i.e. the specific experience their customer will have with their product) and taking on feedback from their mentors. They have also learnt about the accounting basics required for the survival of their start-ups, at Tuesday’s After Hours event. Beyond this, the teams are being told to practice, practice, practice their pitch. Pitch night is coming!

This week, our Marketing Officers looked at how two teams, Team Explorer and Team Stream, are using innovative technology and creative methods to improve the transport experience. We asked about the biggest challenges they were facing, and how IACT is helping to shape their business ideas.

With their background in the railway industry, Linda, Bowen, and Mingyuan from Team Explorer are developing a new method for railway track monitoring. As they explain, ‘the traditional method consumes a lot of labour and time, and is not real-time monitoring. We want to create a labour-free and real-time monitoring effort. It should be making their work more effective, and reduce the cost and risk as well.’ They are planning this online monitoring system in the form of an app, which will allow railway workers to monitor the track from the train, rather than on foot, in a faster and more effective fashion.

Team Explorer with Anika from the IACT Committee

The inspiration came from their own experience with ‘guys in the railway companies who complain of the current method. Currently they need to go through the track every day for manual inspection, and defects on the track cause a lot of risk for the passengers.’

A challenge their venture is now facing is protecting their idea, given that it is not a method which currently exists. They also anticipate that reaching out to clients and getting their method tested could also be a challenge, but one which can be solved in the future. Their priority is idea protection for now!

Despite these challenges, the IACT journey has already had some major highlights. Linda describes her favourite moment: ‘At first we didn’t think a general manager at the railway company would answer our request. So when Bowen told us he actually wants to talk with us, I was so surprised! I mean, with a high level manager, I’d never expect that they would have a real discussion about our idea at this early stage. I was so surprised, it’s a very great opportunity.’

Another team whose venture aims to improve the transport industry is Team Stream. Marcus and Adi of Stream are designing ‘an app-based service which allows an airline to board its passengers onto flights quickly and efficiently, while preventing the burden of queues. We have a system where the boarding agent or flight attendant gets to control who can board and when exactly they can board, so the passengers don’t have to queue up or wait.’

As a team, Marcus and Adi believe they complement each other with their skills; Marcus has some experience in marketing and legislation, and Adi has web development skills. Moving forward, they are looking for someone for help in app development.

Team Stream with Suhaib from the IACT Committee

For Marcus and Adi, IACT has really helped in validating their idea and getting honest and productive feedback. As for the business model, ‘it’s really forced us to think a lot about how much we’re going to charge, and how many airlines we will need to sell it to to break even.’

They explain that the biggest challenge they currently face is the question of ‘how much our idea can save an airline per minute? And the second biggest question is whether the customers will be incentivised to download it, otherwise this whole system wouldn’t work.’

They have been working with a mentor, whose frankness, they say, is a great way to further validate their value proposition in the most basic and realistic terms. He also has connections to the aviation industry, assisting them in branching out to potential customers.

In the next few weeks, this group is hoping to further refine their idea, and succeed at IACT Pitch Night. ‘We both really believe in this idea and want to get it off the ground. So we hope to use the mentors and the networks that IACT has to connect us with, customers and other infrastructure, to help us get off the ground.’

The home stretch is fast approaching! We can’t wait to bring you a few more interviews, and then zero in on how teams are preparing for the grand finale of IACT20. Stay tuned!